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Messages people send without putting them to words

As I had promised in one of my earlier posts, I delved deeper into the theory I had elicited in the post and what I came up with is this post. The purpose was to identify how can the theory of body language be helpful for you to understand what exactly is being conveyed beyond the words by the person you are talking to.

The previous post for which this is a continuation is available at - Thoughts - We communicate more than what we say

Here are some of the nonverbal messages that a person communicates based on his/ her state of mind and emotional situation.I have only covered top 10 messages and a few body signs related to each message. I have the detailed report I developed based on my research which has many more messages and body language signs for all the messages. In case you are interested in receiving the report do drop in a comment to this post with your contact details and I would be happy to send it to you.

Message 1 – Happiness/ Relaxation

A relaxed body generally lacks tension. Muscles are relaxed and loose. Movement is fluid and the person seems happy or unconcerned overall. The signs are given below –
  • Breathing - Breathing is steady and slower. This may make the voice a little lower than usual.
  • Arms - Relaxed arms either hang loosely or move smoothly.
  • Hands - Relaxed hands hang loose or are used to enhance what we are saying. They are generally open and may shape ideas in the air. Gestures are open and gentle, not sudden nor tense.
  • Eyes
    • The eyes smile with the mouth, particularly in the little creases on the side of the eyes.
    • A relaxed gaze will look directly at another person without staring, and with little blinking. The eyes are generally dry.
    • Eyebrows are stable or may move with speech. They do not frown.
  • When the head moves, it is smoothly and in time with relaxed talk or another expression.
  • Vocal Characteristics
    • Medium speech rate/tempo – The person speaks at a normal pace and does not sound too lethargic or too fast in his speech
    • Low voice intensity/sound level – Maintain a low volume of the voice but is clearly audible
    • Medium pitch level – One would not observe shrillness but the voice would still have some sharpness/
    • No sudden changes in pitch or speed – The speech appears consistent and there are no variations in the voice quality/characteristics during speaking indicating calmness.

Message 2 – Attention/Interest/Enthusiasm

When you are in conversation or otherwise attending to what others are saying or doing, your body sends signals to the other person as to how interested you really are. Attentive body language sends a strong signal of real and deep interest. Some of the signs of this are –
  • Listening - A person who is attentive is, first of all, listening. This can be of varying intensity, though, attentive listening is deep and interested.
  • Ignoring distractions - If a person ignores distraction, from phone calls to other people interrupting, it is 'I am interested in you' signals.
  • Stillness - When the listener is largely still, the implication is of forgetting everything else except the other person, with not even internal dialogue being allowed to distract.
  • Leaning forward - When someone is interested in you and what you have to say he or she will likely lean slightly towards you.
  • A bright or widening eye shows a high level of interest in what’s been said or discussed.

Message 3 – Open/Receptive

A significant cluster of body movements is all about being open. Some of these signs are –
  • Open Arms - Arms are not crossed and may be animated and moving in synchronization with what is being said or held wide.
  • Palms are also relaxed and may be quite expressive, for example appearing to hold things and form more detailed shapes. Open hands show that nothing is being concealed.
  • Palms touching the chest could imply honesty
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Raised Pitch – there is perceptible shrillness in person’s voice but the sharpness is not intruding.
    • Medium intensity – the volume of voice is easily audible but not loud. The person wishes to discuss and not impose and hence the calmness.

Message 4 – Defensive

When a person is feeling threatened in some ways, they will take defensive body postures. Defensive communication usually takes place when we are (or we think we are) judged, manipulated, criticized, attacked or looked down upon. Some signs of such a behavior are –
  • Crossed arms, and sometimes crossed legs.
  • Walking behind an area that can offer coverage, like a desk, or a podium, or a chair.
  • Raising a hand or an eyebrow and staring back at the person in defiance as if saying "Spare me".
  • Sitting back in your chair
  • Voice characteristics
    • Weak, soft – The person seems to have lost confidence and hence speaks in very low volume voice. This is because the person may be afraid of speaking something wrong which may backfire.
    • Monotone – Consistent voice characteristics; not much change in the intonation
    • Abrupt speech – the person may cut the other person short or may start talking abruptly whenever he or she feels the need to offer justification or excuse.

Message 5 – Deception

When a person is seeking to trick or deceive you, they there are many different body signal they may use. A deceptive body is concerned about being found out. Some of these are given below –
  • Sweaty palms, sudden movements, minor twitches of muscles
  • Biting the inside of the mouth, patting head, hands in pockets
  • Forced smiles (mouth smiles but eyes do not)
  • The oscillation between open body language and defensive body language.
  • Hand or palms turned down or closed; not revealed to you.
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Sudden changes in voice tone and speed – This is a specific signal of deception or cheating as the person’s voice is irregular or inconsistent as he tries to make up things or wants to avoid being caught.
    • Stumbling over words – A person tries to cheat may not be sure of what to say and so is liable to stumble during speaking as he or she thinks for how best to articulate a lie.
    • Repeating words; Pauses – When a person is not sure of what to speak or is making things while speaking, he or she may repeat words to buy some time to think things over.

Message 6 – Boredom/Uninterested

If the person is not interested in their surroundings or what is going on, then they may become bored. The disinterest may also be feigned if they do not want you to see that they are interested. Some signs for this are –
  • Eyes roaming all over the place - implies you've lost interest, is bored and not listening.
  • Excessive nodding - gives the impression you've lost interest and would just want to end the conversation.
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Monotone Voice – The person does not shoe much variation in a tone which is a sign of lack of animation.
    • Slow speech rate – Person speaks slowly with no enthusiasm and shows a lack of energy.
    • Low voice intensity – Lack of energy is also showed by very low voice volumes.
    • Low pitch level – The voice lacks shrillness.
    • Little pitch variability
    • Slow voice onsets

Message 7 – Domination/Aggression/Hostility

  • Facial signals - disapproving frowns and pursed lips
  • Staring eyes and long gazes
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Loud Voice – Raised Volume – Person raises a voice when he or she intends to show authority. In sense high voice signifies that the person would be heard even in disturbances (opposition).
    • Deepening voice – Deep voice generally mean aged voice. This signifies a voice with authority and power.
    • Fast voice onsets

Message 8 – Submission

These are gestures that have the primary intent of showing submission and that there is no intent to harm the other person. Some of these are –
  • Hunching inwards
  • Held-in arms
  • Being Motionlessness - signals that you are ready to be struck and will not fight back.
  • Head down by turning the chin - protects the vulnerable neck; avoids looking the other person in the face
  • Tugged hair, face touching and jerky movement.
  • Whiteness of the face and sweating.
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Weak, soft – Person speaks at a low volume to signify giving up things.
    • Raised pitch – higher pitch/shrillness may indicate the frustration at losing or giving up.
    • Slow speed – A person is never eager to loose and hence speaks slowly when feeling submissive.

Message 9 – Confidence/Self-Esteem

The signs to identify if a person is confident about his moves are given below –
  • Hands behind the back; Talking with hands away from his face - Shows confidence; appear to know what you are talking about; Nothing to hide
  • Raised Head
  • Running fingers through hair could mean you are showing confidence in your actions and visibility; trying to gain attention
  • Consistent and frequent eye contact
  • Voice Characteristics
    • High Voice – Confidence yields energy and this shows when a person speaks. The volume is higher than usual.
    • Low pitch – the pitch or shrillness is low as the person does not want to show sharpness in speaking as he or she is already confident of what is being said.
    • Downward inflected voice

Message 10 – Ready/Eager

A person is said to be ready when he or she wants to act and is waiting for the trigger. The person is thus poised for action. Some signs are –
  • Somebody part (head, hand, arm, foot, or eyes) pointing in the direction of the activity
  • Tensed body - either holding armrests of chair, or things in hand are gripped tightly
  • Rubbing palms together or on thighs
  • Sitting on edge of chair
  • Voice Characteristics
    • Raised volumes and speed – High volumes and speed are associated with loads of enthusiasm. When a person is eager to undertake something he speaks fast to waste as little time as possible.
    • Raised pitch – Pitch is higher owing to the enthusiasm which brings in some shrillness to the voice.

Other messages covered in the report are Evaluation, Fear, Anxiety, and Nervousness. Frustration/Irritation, Surprise, Embarrassed, Closed/Un-receptive, Dejection.

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